By Charlie Nardozzi

With more and more people growing blueberries as edible landscape plants, questions are emerging about how to care for them. While blueberries are a relatively easy crop to grow, there are some pests to worry about. The biggest threat is birds. They love the free meal your blueberry bushes can offer.

Use bird netting draped over tall stakes to keep birds away from your berry crop.

This concern can turn into an opportunity for a fun educational session with your kids this summer. Here are some ways to enlist your kids in a bird patrol.

  • Scare Devices: Explain to your children that birds are easily scared. Brainstorm with them about things that might scare birds, such as other animals, distracting objects, and noises. Come up with a list and then go on a scavenger hunt around the house and garage to find some potential homemade scare devices. These can include old CDs (the shiny surface reflects light), old birthday party ribbons that can flutter in the breeze and reflect light, and old radios (sometimes noise bothers birds). Try all of these in the blueberry patch and see if they help. You can also purchase scare eye balloons (that mimic a hawk’s eye) and reflective tape that will do the trick.
  • Covers: An obvious way to prevent bird damage is to exclude them from the bushes. Ask your kids to find materials that might be used to block a bird’s entrance to the berries. While plastic tarps and sheets will block the birds, they also block the sun. Show them bird netting and devise a structure that will allow you to drape the netting over the bush. Explain that if you simply place the netting directly on the bush, leaves and fruits will be torn off the plant whenever you lift the netting to harvest. It’s better to drive four tall stakes into the ground around the bush and drape the netting over that instead. Also, explain that the netting needs to touch the ground so birds can’t get in from the bottom.
  • Sprays: While there are many commercial sprays on the market for discouraging birds from eating berries, a simple spray can be made with your kids at home. Get four small packages of grape Kool-Aid and dissolve them in 2 quarts of water. Birds don’t like the taste and will avoid the berries. Simply wash the Kool-Aid off the berries before eating.